What do I know about tea?
I know I enjoy it very hot with a little honey (okay, sometimes more than a little honey). I know despite the warm weather I could use a cup of very hot tea to help combat the summer sniffles I have recently contracted. I know tea with cake is better than tea by itself.
This month's IMBB #17, hosted by Clement of A La Cuisine! is called tasteTea! I have never cooked or baked with tea before but this theme has made me see the error of my ways. Tea is a wonderful addition for baked goods. It's not an overpowering essence, but one that will cause your tasters to think, "this is so good... so unusual... what is that flavor?"
When I began thinking about what I would make using tea as a featured ingredient, I wasn't sure where I would end up. I sort of made it up as I went along. I found a recipe for a basic brown sugar cookie and added a bit of powdered Chai Latte mix. This turned out to be quite a tasty cookie! I rolled the cookie dough into a ball and flattened the ball slightly with the bottom of a decorative cream pitcher dipped in more of the Chai Latte powder. This cookie would be even more phenomenal with a bit of Turbinado sugar sprinkled on top before baking, just to give it a bit more sparkle and crunch.
I wasn't sure where my week would lead me nearing the IMBB deadline so I packed away a few of these cookies so I would have something to photograph. I spoke to a few of my co-workers about the tasteTea! theme and they had some great ideas... one of which was making a teapot cake.
*thinking thinking* That's a good idea, but how would I do this? Simply icing a cake and decorating it with a teapot seemed sort of... boring. I talked myself into attempting to cover the cake with fondant and making the whole thing into a teapot... complete with lid, handle and spout. I had never worked with fondant before either, so this was quite a learning experience for me also.
The cake itself is made with green tea and turned out quite delicious. The filling is a light lemon cream, which complimented the cake very well. I found the sweet buttercream icing was too overpowering and if I were to make this cake in the future, I might simply bake a sheet cake and ice it with the lemon cream and leave it at that.
Green Tea Vanilla Cake
Adapted from Colette Peters' white cake
8 ounces each all-purpose flour and cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temp.
21 ounces sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. clear vanilla extract
1 cup egg whites, at room temp.
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup strong green tea (1 cup water + 2 tea bags steeped until cool)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour four 6-inch cake pans (or use parchment circles and cooking spray). Sift together flours and baking powder. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add salt and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk and tea, mixing after each addition and ending with the flour. Mix just until combined. Do not overmix. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and allow to cool completely. Wrap and refrigerate before decorating.
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temp.
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. clear vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioners' sugar
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix at low speed until smooth. If stiffer icing is needed, or if the weather is very warm, add a little more confectioners' sugar.
Lemon Cream Filling
1/2 pint Baker's Whipping Cream (pre-sweetened whipping cream with stabilizers)
1/4 cup lemon curd
Pour cream into chilled mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Blend a few tablespoons of whipped cream into lemon curd to lighten curd slightly. Gently fold lightened lemon curd into remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to use.
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 ounce packet powdered Chai Latte mix (about 1/3 cup), divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Turbinado sugar or Sugar in the Raw (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. In a small bowl, combine cream of tartar, soda and salt with 3 tablespoons of the Chai Latte powder (reserve the remaining Chai powder) add dry mixture the to the creamed mixture along with egg and vanilla and mix well. Then add flour all at once.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet (cookies can be fairly close together since they will not spread very much during baking). Pour reserved Chai powder onto a plate. Dip the tines of a fork or the bottom of a decorative glass into the powder and press into balls to flatten slightly. Sprinkle with Turbinado sugar, if using. Bake 10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheet before removing to cooling racks. Makes about 3 dozen.
Thank you, Clement, for helping me challenge my baking and decorating limitations.